I grew up believing that when I served people that meant I give everything of myself, and make no demands of how I am treated when I serve. I am not the only one, but I can only write my experience. This retelling of “The Giving Tree” is a perfect example of a message we once sent that needs to be rethought (repent).
The tree did not have to give everything. I love this quote:
Well, look here, Boy, I love you like family, But I am not going down like that.”The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries
I have been cast about most of my life. I learned to serve men (not God) at an early age from church. I was to help men have self-control, and I was to make any concession they needed to make it so. If I served the men, then I was serving God. Apparently there is this hierarchy, and God listens to men first. You can check out the umbrella meme people share, it describes it perfectly. Why wouldn’t God work like that? I am being facetious here. These family hierarchies come from Aristotle, not Paul, to be quite clear. The books of the Bible that have household codes are inconsistent with Paul’s undisputed writings, and that is one reason those books are not believed to be the actual Paul. The writer was influenced by Paul and the philosophers.
This philosophy also leads to discrimination from the nontraditional families, too. Although, biblically, what is a traditional family? We can make a lot of biblical cases for things we’d never want to carry out. I like how Audre Lorde critiques the philosophy of men having more than one wife because women could not make it without a man, and this was actually saving them from death. She asks a thoughtful question: (summarized) if women outnumbered men, and that is why men married more than one woman, wouldn’t a more creative solution be for the women to be lesbians-their choice? That is not only more creative solution over polygamy, but also a chance to let women feel love. What good is anything without love? The first solution is just not dying.
Looking back now at church, it feels icky elders were telling teenage girls what to wear. If we took the Bible seriously on this, and men really can’t control themselves because of women, we’d take this verse more seriously instead: If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Matt 5:29 NRSV). There is no verse telling women to wear more clothes. Should I have used this verse to help men have self-control? Would I be considered a good woman who loves her man if I told my man to do this instead? I would technically still be considered a biblical-woman.
So with this background stated, this philosophy has caused me to put myself in abusive situations over and over. I am not going to rehash my trauma. It has been written and retold numerous time, I know it isn’t good for my mental health anymore. My body is crying out for rest from the abuse. I have been completely open. I am telling my story for a reason.
I am a full human being. I am created in the image of God just like everyone else. We need to say this about ourselves. All of us. When we are mistreated, for any reason, that is not okay. We can set a boundary and say no; like the Giving Tree is doing now. We still love the people we serve like family, but family doesn’t get to run over us either. “Both sides” and balance are not always good postures to take-abuse is one of those times. Clear boundaries are needed.
We are a nation that puts a lot of value on abuse making us better. You can read the Bible that way, but it is inconsistent with the gospels, and I go with love as a better solution than abuse. I am changing as a human being because I know what love feels like now. I have shown my wounds, and my people not are not leaving my side; they are draw nearer, because they care.
I learned to choose myself when the shit-show happened for me in 2015 and 2016. If I wanted to live, I was going to let people go; and, I did. And I am more alive than I have ever felt in my life. I let church that would not take the abuse of women seriously go, and I refused to continue to serve friends that abused Jake and me because we gave of ourselves too generously. It never occurred to people we might be deeply wounded, because no one ever thought of us–only what we were doing for them, and justified it by the pennies we were paid. I say pennies, because it wasn’t much. Here is how I know money justified the abuse. The friend who sent the letter to the whole team, and the Mutiny Board, told me, when I stood up to him, he always yells at CEOs and then goes and gets a beer with them. I told him we are not CEOs, and CEOs shouldn’t be treated that way either. If CEOs are acting up, as many of them are, then remove them from office, or implement disciplinary action that motivates justice. Abuse not necessary. It really is that simple, but we don’t want to hold powerful people accountable. We abuse them, and they lose their humanity, and we do too. Look at our leaders now. Why are they acting less than human? My guess is they are treated that way, and they believe it. Have to serve the ones paying you. Not serve truth or their true gifts. Us versus them makes us act less than human.
My therapist is seeing that using the word balance is not balancing me out, personally. It is a trigger-word for me because we use it in so many scenarios that we should absolutely not be balancing. Here are some examples:
- Lets take the Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz picture at the airport after a ruthless campaign. Well, Ted Cruz was ruthless. I am going to be straight up that the GOP is running the nastiest campaigns, but I will call it out any time I see it. I don’t tolerate any criticism of Trump’s looks, or the ableist jokes aimed at him. The campaign was awful, but when they saw each other at the airport and took a picture to show they were “friendly”, we all applauded. I get the need for seeing people get along, but this gives abuse a pass. There is no accountability for our actions. The idea we can abuse anyone we want, and the one harmed has to be nice in return so everyone else will feel better, is abusive too. We accuse the person harmed of inflicting the same abuse if they don’t play along- demanding respect.
2. Also, Hillary and Trump. At the end of one of their debates, and Trump was nasty (he is the one who acts nasty-lets be clear about this), they were asked to say nice things to each other at the end of the debate, because we needed to hear them be nice. Only Trump should have had to answer that. Hillary wasn’t abusing him. Critique and abuse are two different things. I am having to learn this. My school critiques me and loves me. But I am used to critique being cruel, I have trouble telling the difference. This is a common misconception in our society. I am writing because I am healing from this.
Setting boundaries doesn’t just help the one who has been harmed. It helps the abuser too. They can find their own humanity when they see others love themselves too much to take their abuse. My soccer friends made all kinds of assumptions about who I was when I stood up for myself and chose myself over balancing with their abuse. It freed me. I hope it helps them too, but I am not responsible for that. I did my part by loving myself. I still love them like family, but I am not going down like that.
Here is a picture of me with a printout of the new version of The Giving Tree. This is my story.